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First evaluation of the cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius sp.) predation pattern on different cetacean species in Martinique

Feunteun, A., de Schrevel, C., Verhaegen, M., Chevallier, D., Duchemin, M., Ziani, N., de Montgolfier, B.
Environmental biology of fishes 2018 v.101 no.5 pp. 749-759
Cetacea, Isistius, coasts, databases, habitats, interspecific variation, marine ecosystems, marine mammals, oceans, parasitism, predation, seasonal variation, sharks, Caribbean, Martinique
Cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius sp.) are small squaloid sharks that live in tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Their name comes from their unique tactic of feeding, which enables them to parasitize marine mega-fauna, like cetaceans. Due to their morphological and anatomical characteristics, they are responsible of crater-like wounds on the skin of marine mammals. Little is known on Isistius sp. around the globe especially in Martinique, which represents a potential habitat. The main goal of this study was to assess the impact of cookie-cutter sharks on cetaceans by determining (1) seasonal changes in the occurrence of bites, (2) intra- and interspecific differences in frequencies and locations of bites among the different species of cetaceans, and (3) link behavior patterns of both cookie-cutter sharks and cetaceans. Data were collected from a 3-year photo-identification database of Cetaceans in Caribbean coast of Martinique. 431 wounds of various stages on 396 individuals from nine species of marine mammals were recorded. Results did not show any significant variation in the occurrence of wounds between seasons. Intermediate state was more important, most injuries were observed on the SCF (Superior Central Flank) (62.40%) and in a lesser extent on young individuals (3.25%). The predation of cookie-cutter sharks on different cetacean species has been confirmed consistently in Martinique. Further studies are required with both scientists and fishermen to better understand their specific role in this marine ecosystem.